WW1 worst mass injury event – research


Wounded soldiers being placed in motorized ambulance during WW1, in France.
Wounded soldiers being placed in motorized ambulance during WW1, in France.

A research that was done recently shows that many deaths experienced in New Zealand during the WW1 should have been significantly reduced if not avoided if preventive measures were put in place during the war.

According to Otago Daily Times, conclusion was made that it was the worst mass injury event in New Zealand’s history to have ever occurred according to research done using recent statistics.

The research was done by University of Otago, Wellington together with Massey University researchers. It was a perfect timing to release the report because next year they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary since the outbreak of the war.

Glyn Harper, a professor at Massey University said that if preventive measures were put in place, a lot of life could have been saved. This theory is supported by the research released.

Poor military leadership, failed campaigns such as Gallipoli and lack of proper military planning contributed to too many deaths experienced during the ww1.

Use of helmets also could have helped to reduce deaths as well as the injuries.

Associate Prof Nick Wilson of Otago University said that this was the first study about the brutal killings of New Zealand that has been done using modern analytical methods. This might be the actual facts about what really happened during WW1.

The study was done using cenotaph database from Auckland Museum.

It showed that injury was the major cause of death rather than diseases.

16,703 New Zealand soldiers died during the First World War. 63% of the total deaths died in action, 23% died of wounds and only 11% died of disease. According to Prof. Wilson, the medical services offered to the injured were so poor and not up to the task. Weapons were changed every time during the war and different tactics used which led to many casualties that even hospitals were unable to accommodate them all.

In the year 1995, death caused by injuries rose to 1335 per 10,000 soldiers because of Gallipoli and rose again in 1917 due to the battle of Passchendaele. In 1918, injury deaths had peaked up to 29%.

The situation worsened when 450 soldiers were dying each day.

The war was fought on two fronts, eastern and the western fronts. Many injuries were experienced on the western front which led to the reintroduction of old horse drawn ambulance to take wounded soldiers to hospitals. At that time people were using motorized carts.

13% of the New Zealand army was killed making it the worst mass injury ever to happen in their history, such that it had 258 more deaths compared to the combination of World War Two, influenza pandemic and the worst earthquake at Hawkes Bay.




Steve Khalif

Steve Khalif is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE